It seems to me that there are only two reasons to punish:
1. To correct.
2. To exact revenge.
OK, so what about the Christian notion that if you don’t ask Jesus to absolve you of original sin – or any personal sins, come to that – before you die, God will punish you by consigning you to hell fire for all eternity? That’s a bit odd because Christians also preach that God is our loving father – more than that, the best and most loving of all fathers. So let’s ask a question:
If a good and loving father punishes his child at all, does he do so for any reason other than to correct? Surely no such father would do it out of the need for vengeance. That’s just spiteful, irrational and quite unthinkable. So now we have a dilemma:
Those poor souls consigned to hell fire are – by definition – beyond correction. So why continue to punish them? Either to take a spiteful revenge or for no reason at all, and where does that leave our view of God?
I suspect that the whole notion of hell fire and damnation was thought up by clerics to persuade gullible souls out of the urge to be naughty. Well, it didn’t persuade those supposedly pious but rather nasty Normans, did it? No doubt it was why Duke William was really very, very sorry when he knew he was getting near the end. (I mean, look what he did to my ancestors, some of whom came from the north and were no doubt well harried.) He must have felt that building a few abbeys and churches wouldn’t be quite enough to get him off the hook, especially since Norman architecture was a bit prone to partial collapse anyway. Is it surprising that his stomach burst when they forced him into his coffin? I think not.
But I’m moving away from the point now, which is what happens when you have a capricious and lazy brain, so I’m shutting up.
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Except to say that I intend to wear the same shirt tomorrow as I did today, just so nobody smiles at me and I won’t have to help them out of any ditches.